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Adrian Johnstone appears on 'Monkman and Seagull's Genius Adventures'

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Adrian Johnstone appears on 'Monkman and Seagull's Genius Adventures'

  • Date19 May 2020

Professor Adrian Johnstone, from the Department of Computer Science at Royal Holloway, University of London, appears in episode 2 of the BBC 2 documentary series, 'Monkman and Seagull's Genius Adventures' due to be broadcast on Monday 25 May at 9pm.

Adrian Johnstone and the Difference Engine filming for BBC

Left - right Bobby Seagull, Eric Monkman, Adrian Johnstone and Elizabeth Scott with the Difference Engine during filming at the Boilerhouse.

The show delves into Britain’s history through a time-travelling journey that begins in 1750 at the start of the Industrial Revolution, investigating the greatest breakthroughs in science and technology up until the end of Queen Victoria’s reign.

Adrian Johnstone was contacted by the show’s producers Lable1 to contribute to a section for the new series on the foundations of modern computing. He was filmed demonstrating our steam driven Difference Engine, which makes tables of mathematical functions and can be programmed to a limited extent.

Professor Johnstone said,

“When Charles Babbage designed his original Difference Engine in 1821, it was the first ever automatically sequenced calculator and laid the foundation for his later work on the Analytical Engine, which has all of the characteristics of a modern computer, but is made of gears and rods, not electronics. 

“Our engine uses Babbage's second design but is made with modern 3D printed nylon and laser cut steel. There is a real steam engine that runs the machine automatically once it has been set up in its initial state.

It was fun to film the machine in action at Royal Holloway’s converted Boilerhouse which lent a suitably Victorian backdrop!”


Profs Adrian Johnstone and Elizabeth Scott who led the team that built the Difference Engine machine, with support from the Leverhulme Trust, previously presented it as a centerpiece of the award winning 200 years of Digital exhibition staged on campus to celebrate 50 years of Computer Science at Royal Holloway – watch more here 


One of the show’s presenters, Bobby Seagull is an alumnus of Royal Holloway, and together with Eric Monkman the popular presenting duo bring some much-needed escapism, interesting history and entertainment to audiences during this time - watch the show on BBC 2.


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